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“Simon’s Cat” Videos Are Perfect For English Language Learners

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'simon's cat' photo (c) 2009, frolleinbombus - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of using short video clips with English Language Learners as a language-development activity (you can read more at The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them) ).

One of my favorite instructional strategies is called “Back To The Screen,” which I adapted from Zero Prep: Ready To Go Activities For The Language Classroom by Laurel Pollard and Natalie Hess. I pick a clip from a movie (the highway chase scene from one of the Matrix movies, for example. I then divide the class into pairs with one group facing the TV and the other with their back to it. Then, after turning off the sound, I begin playing the movie. The person who can see the screen tells the other person what is happening. Then, after awhile, I switch the groups around. Afterwards, the pairs need to write a chronological sequence of what happened, which we share in class. Finally, everyone watches the clip, with sound, together. Students really enjoy this activity.

I’ve been a longtime fan of “Simon’s Cat” videos but, due to a brain freeze or something like that, I had never thought about how great they would be to use with ELLs — their short, funny, engaging, and don’t require knowing English to enjoy them.

If you’re one of the few people on earth who haven’t seen them :), here’s an example. The video I have embedded is also set to play all of them, if you’re so inclined (you can also go to its YouTube channel):

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. Have two groups watch two different simon’s cat videos ( great for having them use their own devices) and then pair up and describe the videos they saw. After, in their original groups, they work together to compare notes, compile all details about the other group’s video. Then each group presents the others video. The listening group listens for the accuracy of the story. The groups could always also watch the video of the other group to check the accuracy of their recounting. Great for practicing narrative tenses at the b1+ b2 level.

  2. 1) Give several words that describe a Simon’s video and let your students speculate on the plot;
    2) play the sounds of the video, but don’t show the video to your students. They give you their versions of what happened;
    3) give your students screenshots from the video, so that your students could put the pictures in order and describe the story in details;
    4) watch the video and compare

  3. I’m a massive fan of Simon’s Cat too. And, I agree, they make a wonderful English language resource.

    I’ve used the videos in online one-to-one lessons. The ultimate aim of the lesson is simply for the student to describe what’s happening in the video. To be able to do that effectively needs a lot of support due to the fast pace of the action, so I break the lesson down into stages:

    1. PREDICTION: Show one or two stills from the video and ask the student to predict what’s going to happen in the video.

    2. FEEDING IN LANGUAGE: Start showing the video (using Skype’s screen sharing – and with the volume loud enough to be heard over my webcam), but hitting pause every few seconds – during the pauses we go through the language the student will need to describe the video. This often involves a lot of reformulation of the student’s language. The student needs to make notes of keywords.

    3. I sometimes use these pauses to ask the student to predict what’s going to happen next.

    4. TASK REHEARSAL: After we’ve been through the video bit by bit, gradually feeding in language, we watch the video again and the student starts to describe the action in the video with me and the pause button giving support where necessary.

    5. MAIN TASK: After a few rehearsals, a more advanced student might be ready to describe the video in real time.

    You could also provide the student with an error-strewn description of the video, which they correct, or a gap fill.

    http://theonlineenglishteacher.com

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